Looking back on MS TechEd 2011

One of the most interesting things to ever happen to me was being forced to take a furlough by my employer. This was done by all of the management teams to show our staff that we were not below touch of the financial impact of the downturn of the economy. One thing I have always wanted to do was attend a technology conference and I was determined to use this week off without contact as a great opportunity to attend a conference without interruption.

I signed up for the conference back in December of 2010 getting a discount on the conference fees but did not setup for my hotel. That could wait … or so I thought. As the date kept getting closer and closer, I got more and more excited. This was a week I could not wait for.

As the conference drew near, I started to get my arrangements together. Looking through the conference hotels, they were full. Uh oh … Going through all of the hotels, there was no vacancies at all. Damn it! I waited too long. I ended up at a non-conference hotel which was nice but did not have the transportation like the conference hotels. I could kick myself for that and hope to learn my lesson for next year.

As with other conferences, I arrived the day before the conference to register and get my wits about me. The flight to Atlanta was nice as I had enough miles to get first class tickets. I found it funny that this was the first time I had seen more Windows Phones in people's hands than other phones. I could tell most of the folks on the flight were either Microsoft employees or worked for the conference. The Atlanta Conference Center was huge with many halls and locations. I learned where everything was located and started trying to put together my schedule with rooms to understand where I would be spending most of my time. Upon completion of that, I started going through the other social schedules. I heard about a pre-conference party near the center offered by a group called "TheKrewe of MSTechEd".

In finding my way down the street to the venue, I found my way up to the private rooms and felt very welcome. Sitting around and having a drink, it was incredible to get to know and chat with other IT Professionals. This was the main thing I wanted from this week, the networking with other professionals. I met some great folks like Scott Ladewig (@ladewig), Mike McAtee (@filmnomore), and David (aka @gkrew). I felt at home with this group but needed to get back to my hotel so I left very early from the evening. Again, another folly I will learn from.

Through the week, I attended many courses and informational presentations. I spent time with many other professionals like Jaclyn Morris (@jaclynsmorris) and Aaron Wheeler, as well as running into the venerable Paul Thurrott (@thurrott) whom I got the luck of spending a day with in Seattle along with Long Zheng and Michael Gillett showing them around Seattle. I also got time with many vendors including spending some time with HP to learn of their new generation servers, now released this spring.

The week wrapped up at the World of Coke and Atlanta Aquarium with a huge party. Live bands played and both venues offered activities for everyone. Attendees could buy additional tickets/bracelets for their family, which made the numbers swell inside this area. The food was incredible and the entertainment was fun. The one thing I did right was I got a flight the next day so I could spend a good time at the closing party. On top of getting the flight, I got lucky that my preferred airline only flew out of Atlanta around noon.

The flight back seemed a bit bitter as I had not wanted to leave. I learned so much, met so many good folks. I could not wait for the next TechEd. As soon as the sign-up opened, I signed up for MS TechEd in Orlando for 2012.